Study: Kids with Autism and Younger Siblings Less Likely to Get All Vaccines


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Autistic boy building blocks

Children diagnosed with autism and their younger siblings are less likely to receive childhood vaccines, putting them at risk for preventable diseases, a new study found.

The study says some parents remain concerned about long-debunked claims linking vaccines to autism, despite numerous scientific studies finding no evidence of such connections.

The study, launched amid declining vaccination rates and published in JAMA Pediatrics on March 26, 2018, said some parents are forgoing vaccines against:

  • MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type B, or Hib

The study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared vaccination rates of children with autism spectrum disorder and those without, finding a 12 percent difference.

Lead author Ousseny Zerbo called this finding “very significant.” The Kaiser Permanente study found:

  • Only 82 percent of children with autism received all vaccines recommended for ages 4 to 6 years. However, 94 percent of children without autism received those vaccinations.
  • Only 73 percent of younger siblings of children with autism were fully vaccinated. But 85 percent of younger siblings of children without autism were fully vaccinated.

Debunked Paper Linked to Vaccination Drop

Fears of a vaccine link to autism are often traced to a since-retracted paper by former British doctor Andrew Wakefield published in The Lancet in 1998.

Suffering from a Vaccine related injury? Get a Free Case Review

The study falsely linked MMR to autism and was later denounced by co-authors. Medical authorities “de-licensed” Wakefield for deceit. The debunked theory has been linked to drops in vaccination rates. Several measles outbreaks followed.

A study published in JAMA in 2015 determined no harmful association between MMR and autism.

The study involved more than 95,000 children. These child participants had older siblings with or without autism spectrum disorder. Researchers compared the risk of autism in children who were given the MMR vaccine and those who didn’t get it.

The results were same regardless of whether older siblings had autism. Results were also the same for children who were already at a higher risk of having autism.

Study: New Strategies Needed to Increase Vaccinations

In the most recent study, Zerbo and colleagues examined the records of 590,000 children without autism and 3,700 children with autism.

The information was taken from health care provider Kaiser Permanente locations in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington and Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin.

Researchers concluded that parents of children with autism have “vaccine hesitancy.”

“New strategies, including establishing or promoting a better dialogue among parents, health care professionals, and public health authorities, may be needed to increase vaccine uptake in populations with low uptake,” the study said.

Kristin Compton
Written By Kristin Compton Writer

Kristin Compton's background is in legal studies. She worked as a paralegal before joining Drugwatch as a writer and researcher. She was also a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants. A mother and longtime patient, she has firsthand experience of the harmful effects prescription drugs can have on women and their children. Some of her qualifications include:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies | Pre-Law from University of West Florida
  • Past employment with The Health Law Firm and Kerrigan, Estess, Rankin, McLeod & Thompson LLC
  • Personal experience battling severe food allergies, asthma and high-risk pregnancies
Edited By
Kevin Connolly
Kevin Connolly Managing Editor

9 Cited Research Articles

  1. Zerbo, O. et al. (2018, March 26). Vaccination Patterns in Children After Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis and in Their Younger Siblings. JAMA Pediatrics. Retrieved from
  2. Perkes, C. (2018, March 26). Despite No Link With Autism, Vaccine Rates Lag For Kids With ASD. Disability Scoop. Retrieved from
  3. Scutti, S. (2018, March 26). Children with autism less likely to be fully vaccinated, study finds. CNN. Retrieved from
  4. Mullen, J. (2015, April 22). Another study finds no link between MMR vaccine and autism. CNN. Retrieved from
  5. Jain, A. et al. (2015). Among US Children With Older Siblings With and Without Autism. JAMA. Retrieved from
  6. The Associated Press. (2018, March 7). FDA did not issue new statement on vaccines and autism. Retrieved from
  7. Kaiser Permanente. (2018, March 26). Children With Autism and Their Younger Siblings Less Likely to Be Fully Vaccinated. Retrieved from
  8. Harris, Gardiner. (2010, February 2). Journal Retracts 1998 Paper Linking Autism to Vaccines. Retrieved from
  9. Mozes, Alan. (2018, March 26). Vaccine myth persists as families affected by autism refuse shots. Retrieved from
View All Sources
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